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Abbas, UN Membership and Peace Talks

blairGlobetrotting to enlist UN membership support, Abbas told Time magazine in Columbia on October 11 that he'll resume talks if Israel accepts the Quartet's proposal.

In September, Quartet members established a timeline for "realistic and serious" negotiations with no preconditions to begin in a month. They hope for comprehensive proposals within three months, substantial progress in six, and a firm deal by end of 2012.

Notably, the proposal excludes key issues, including settlements, 1967 borders, East Jerusalem as Palestine's capital, Gaza's siege, diaspora Palestinians right of return, and their legitimate elected Hamas government, among others.

As a result, it offered nothing new, is offensive and demeaning, and excludes PA demands for halting settlement construction as a precondition. Yet Abbas accepted it despite refusing earlier unless Israel agrees.

Quartet members want both sides to negotiate "without preconditions." Netanyahu agreed "with reservations." They include no freeze in settlement construction, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, and a suggested negotiation timetable.

The Quartet wants preliminary talks begun on October 23. Neither side yet agreed.

Time reported Abbas saying:

"If the Israelis accept the statement of the Quartet, I will accept. I will return back to the negotiating table," despite decades of failure because Israel won't tolerate peace.

Abbas knows it, but he'll pretend that perhaps this time is different despite dealing with an Israeli leader who abhors peace and one or more times said so publicly.

There's more, however, said Time. "We are in the realm of talks about talks, very soupy terrain, and it happens that" Palestinians have their own reservations.

"Abbas says he still must insist that Israel cease building housing for its citizens on Palestinian territory....Every government in the world except Israel's regards settlement construction as illegal, as well as a huge physical obstacle to peace."

George Bush's Road Map, in fact, obligated Israel to halt it. However, once begun over four decades ago, it never stopped and won't now. Netanyahu flatly refuses.

Abbas appears to be dancing around an issue he's been adamant about in public statements, saying talks hinge on halting construction. Notably, however, he said nothing during Israel's announced 10-month 2010 moratorium during which building proceeded apace. It didn't even slow. Time neglected to explain it.

Instead it quoted Abbas saying halting construction is a "Road Map obligation. It's not a precondition."

"Semantics," asked Time? "It has that ring, but from the Palestinian perspective the Israelis have continued to build on - or 'colonize' - Palestinian land (for decades), and (past) negotiations dragged on without producing an agreement that returned" occupied territory to Palestinian control.

"This is the story of the negotiations," admits Abbas, but he's willing to resume them anyway. Notably, he was chief Palestinian negotiator in Oslo, ending in acceding to all Israeli demands. Palestinians only won the right to enforce their own occupation.

Nothing in the past 18 years changed. Negotiating with an unwilling partner assures failure. That aside, Abbas also said petitioning for UN membership remains on track separate from peace talks whether or not they resume or what's discussed.

On October 11, an unnamed senior PA official told Haaretz he didn't expect talks to resume soon because of Netanyahu's recalcitrance on settlement construction.

Commenting also on Palestine's UN bid he said:

"This position is not new. As far as we are concerned, renewed negotiations do not cancel (it) at the (UN) General Assembly and Security Council, since they are two separate processes. (We) expect any negotiations to result in a state within the 1967 borders....(T)he two processes are not in conflict with one another."

On October 11, Ma'an News quoted PA official Nabil Shaath saying:

"(N)ine (Security Council member) states....have confirmed" they'll support Palestine's UN bid. They include China, Russia, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, South Africa, Gabon and Bosnia.

Nine are needed to force a US veto. Six confirmed publicly, including China, Russia, Brazil, India, Lebanon, and South Africa.

"We should not doubt our allies and we should help these countries in facing US and Israeli pressure to reinforce the stance of these states through constant meetings and to get assistance from the Arab countries who could support these states," added Shaath.

On September 23, Abbas formally petitioned the Security Council. Normally it reviews applications for a maximum 35 days. Whether or not America vetos Palestine's bid is irrelevant. It solely recommends. Only the General Assembly admits new members.

Abbas can petition it through the 1950 Uniting for Peace Resolution 377 for an up or down two-thirds member vote to override a potential Security Council rejection.

Whether or not he'll request it is doubtful even though doing so assures Palestine becoming the UN's 194 nation with rights equal to all others.

It's that simple, and could happen in days if a responsible leader backed up his words with commitment for long overdue justice.

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